This ended up being one of the dryer weeks when it came to presentable visuals. Things are full steam ahead with my part time work, and it's giving me more opportunities to get familiar with Unreal Engine, but I didn't get as far with my self learning in UE as I would have liked.
I started my first assignment in the Pixelles program - a free online course designed to help folks build out a usable games writing portfolio. It's long paced course that will take a number of months to complete, but I'm hoping to stick with it.
The biggest thing of note I worked on this week was the Hooligans prototype. I was provided with the basic metrics that were desired for the level layouts. As I said in last weeks post, level design doesn't really come naturally to me. So having someone else sketch out what was expected was a big help to me, and allowed me to flesh out a much better prototype level. And having the actual desired metrics allowed us to get a better idea of what the sizes for various objects should be. We'll be shrinking enemy sizes, expanding structure sizes, etc.
The plan is to make further iterations on this test level and see if it actually plays nice. I want to get in a position where myself and the others working on this project can play the game regularly so that we can make calls on how it feels and iterate faster.
These videos are probably still quite abstract so I'll explain:
This shows what is essentially a "Defence Round" in the Hooligans game. The player has a number of key buildings which they have to monitor and protect from approaching enemies. So far the video shows enemies spawning off screen at set points, navigating to the players structures, and attacking them.
Next on the list is having the player spawning units to defend the structures, having combat interactions between enemy and player units, and improving the camera. It may be noticeable from that one GIF, but the current camera implementation can be a bit nauseating (at least for me). I'll be looking into how to make it smoother and less vomit inducing.
There's numerous other changes that are also planned, but are lower priority for now. This upcoming week I'll be doing an extra day of part time work to assist with a key delivery, so I imagine I won't be getting super loads done in terms of my own stuff. But hey, here's hoping.
I'm only 1 day late with this post so in theory I'm getting better at this.
In a way this past week was overall good for my productivity, even though what I actually did was relatively little. I say it's good because I came to two good realisations.
1 - I am not a keen level designer.
For the robot/shooter prototype I'm working on, I was trying to figure out what was making me stall with progress. I was thinking up systems and enemies and narrative beats all relatively easily. And then I discovered that when it came to putting levels together, that's when I started pausing. The actual nitty gritty of carving out a space, figuring out a route, knowing best where each enemy and pick up should go.
So I tried to steamroll past this issue and just start making levels and putting things in them. I'm going to treat it like writing, where you do a first draft and then once that's complete, you forget about it for a few days before going back to it and pruning all the crap that didn't work.
2 - I need specific goals to aim for when learning something
I've whinged on here for a while now that although UE Blueprints are undoubtfully something very useful to learn, I haven't been motivated to continue learning it. I thought it was just because I wasn't enjoying the actual process of learning and trying to make stuff in it. In actuality, I think it's because - similarly to the level design issue - I didn't know what direction to go in.
When you've got a tool that you can go an infinite number of directions with, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start. To combat this, I decided to learn a very specific thing or things one at a time. I decided to go with learning how to make a basic first person shooter first. So I found a tutorial and followed the steps and made the following:
It's basic and ugly and the camera doesn't turn with the mouse yet, but it was cool learning the most basic of basics to get this working.
Coincidentally, it's these kinds of limits which I think end up producing the best creativity. The issue with the player only able to really move forward with limited aiming made me wonder if there'd be a game in that. A literal corridor shooter where your movement is limited and you have to take on enemies in an extremely tight space.
Anyways, those were my two realisations this week and what I got up to.
Other miscellaneous things done in the past week:
- Carried on with my production work
- Enrolled in the Pixelles writing portfolio program
- Wrote up and recorded my thoughts on Dishonored (2012) and was going to put out a video but Adobe Rush decided to be a drama about it
- Added lightning hazards to the shooter prototype
- Added most of the enemy spawning logic for the Hooligans prototype
So this isn't really week 9 as it's ignoring like 3 weeks of holiday time I selfishly took for myself over Christmas, but whatever. The Christmas break was one that I very much needed and enjoyed. I was mindful to not really do any kind of games related work, or any work at all for that matter. The one thing I did focus on was completing a screenplay.
The BBC does an open call for screenwriters twice a year, and for near enough a decade I'd been meaning to submit something. But I always just about missed the window, or saw it too late to actually write anything of substance, or didn't have the energy and time to put into a script. This year, with me being only partially employed and having stumbled on the call with still a month to go before the deadline, I made it my goal to write and submit something.
Ironically enough the story I went with was one that originated from a game world that I conjured up in university together with some friends. It wasn't my intention. I just realised whilst brainstorming that this was the world that was most fleshed out in my mind, that had interesting things going on in it, and could accommodate multiple characters with vastly differing motivations. So I spent a month on it, had enough time for re-writes, and submitted it without issue (as far as I know). I doubt it will get anywhere (previous open calls had something like 4000+ entries and only 20 people get called back), but it was a personal goal of mine to finish and submit a script, and I did. So yay for me.
Outside of that I did apply to some game design roles I found, and am waiting to hear back. Similar to the script thingy though this is a game of numbers. Usually you have to do dozens of applications before you even get a call back from anywhere (or even a response), so I expect to be applying for quite some time. This isn't helped by the fact that junior game designer roles are rarer than big foot sightings.
And to close out, here are some quick fire things I did do over the past week or so:
- Started on further prototyping for the "Home" games for the Hooligans concept
- Joined an online program to help with creating a games writing portfolio
- Finished Dishonored (finally)
- Finished my UX design course (finally)
- Finished the Will Wright Game Design Master Class course (now I need to go through the accompanying booklet and look at the challenges/exercises it provides)